21 Jan Transparency as a means to ensure natural resource management -by Enio Civici
When it comes to natural resources, Albania presents a very interesting invitation for important domestic and foreign investors. Human, energy, mineral and touristic resources constitute a robust basis for the potential development of the southwestern part of the Balkan Peninsula. In particular, minerals and other energy resources have generated to date significant value and income for both extractive companies and the Albanian government. But, like the rest of exploration and production sectors, they require continuous regulation in terms of both management and transparency. There have been considerable developments towards both of these aspects especially in the last 5 years. In addition to continuous supervision and auditing by state institutions, companies and other economic operators that make use of natural resources, such as: petroleum, minerals and hydropower, are also supervised and assisted by the Albanian EITI Secretariat. Albania joined the International Secretariat for transparency in extractive industries, EITI, in 2013, and has so far managed to publish six annual reports in a span of seven years. In order to understand the impact of EITI and, consequently, the benefits that Albania receives through its national secretariat, it is essential to know that this multinational organization currently operates in 51 countries, among which we can mention: Germany, United Kingdom, Finland, Ukraine, Mexico, with the United States of America expected to join it in the near future. Since its foundation, the EITI has been able to process and disclose in open data formats over 2.3 trillion USD of revenues from extractive industries for a total of 346 fiscal years. These figures are not only considerable but they are also important for understanding the impact of transparency in the implementation of the EITI standard. Similarly to other EITI member countries, Albania has managed to produce more complete annual reports during the last five years, thanks to increased coordination and cooperation of the national EITI secretariat with the Ministry of Energy and its subordinate agencies. AlbEITI has also engaged in activities which aim to raise public awareness in affected communities on the importance of transparency as a key mechanism in strengthening governance along the value chain, from natural resources to improving people’s life. In the wake of the publication of annual reports, the EITI Secretariat, with the coordination of other institutions, is expected to publish within the first quarter of 2018 its successive annual report for the year 2016, showing once again our country’s commitment towards a more robust transparency policy.Suffice it to say that for the 2016 annual report, selected reporting entities included 130 mining companies, which account for 90% of domestic output, all companies holding petroleum agreements and about 12 concessionary companies operating in the hydro-energy sector. The numbers themselves indicate the capillary distribution of information generated by the national EITI secretariat with a view to ensuring transparency. There has been a considerable amount of news, opinions and information over the last years regarding the activity of private companies operating in the extractive sector and their relations with state bodies and local communities where they operate. The EITI requirements and numerical accuracy of financial statements, implementation of the legal framework, reconciliation of figures between state bodies, establishment of a national register of licenses, estimation of national reserves and control of social investments made by companies are just a few of the recommendations published at the end of the EITI reports.These recommendations along with AlbEITI’s cooperation with extractive industries operators and civil society, under the umbrella of the multi-stakeholder group, contribute to the country’s development which is achieved through three pillars: strengthening and improving government systems; upgrading company activities to meet the EITI standard and reduce unfair competition; and informing local communities on the use of natural resources to promote openness. EITI constitutes a national asset in terms of natural resources and as such should not only be empowered, but also become a focal point in the debate about them.